KBJ Hearings Typify Our Debased Political Discourse - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
KBJ Hearings Typify Our Debased Political Discourse

Since Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was chosen by President Biden to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, we’ve been encouraged by the White House, congressional Democrats, and the corporate media to celebrate her as the “first Black woman” nominated to serve on the Court. Yet, when asked during her confirmation hearing to define the term “woman,” she responded, “I can’t … I’m not a biologist.” The problem with this answer isn’t just that it was unworthy of a serious SCOTUS nominee. It is symptomatic of a debilitating disease that has infected our political discourse, rendering substantive policy debate all but impossible and endangering the republic.

It is a virulent new strain of an old malady that George Orwell famously wrote about in his 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language,” a rebuke of politicians, journalists, and academics who use deceptive language to conceal their ideological objectives: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” This is how the hopelessly disorganized Jan. 6 Capitol riot became an “insurrection.” It is how differing outcomes between identity groups became “systemic racism.” Orwell also discusses political words that have been rendered meaningless by dishonest usage:

The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.… Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.… Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

This was written 75 years ago. Nonetheless, most of the meaningless words listed above were used — in precisely the way Orwell describes — by the Democrats and the Fourth Estate during Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearings. For example, after Jackson’s unnecessarily evasive answer to the inevitable “woman question” posed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), USA Today’s Alia E. Dastagir came to the rescue using a term that has been much abused of late: “Marsha Blackburn asked Ketanji Brown Jackson to define ‘woman.’ Science says there’s no simple answer.” Science™ was also invoked by Salon’s Matthew Rozca: “Republicans get the science behind sexual difference wrong during Supreme Court nominee hearing.”

“Science” was but one of many terms from Orwell’s meaningless words list that got vigorous workouts. Inevitably “patriot” was among them. Theodore R. Johnson writes in the Washington Post, for example, that the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee attempted “to paint Jackson as unpatriotic.” But she is immune to such attacks according New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, because “she frequently associates herself with the patriotic narrative of American history.” Never mind that no Republican impugned her patriotism. The feigned outrage, however, contains a plethora of Orwell’s “exhausted idioms.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) served up several Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

She showed up and told America how qualified she is, how special she is, what kind of endurance, grit and grace she showed.… I just wanted to reaffirm the truth of the matter that I think most Americans know, which is how special this person is, and bring our attention back to how incredibly special this moment is.… She is shattering a glass ceiling and doing it because she is an extraordinarily qualified human being.… I think what was unfortunate in the room for me was that she was getting attacks that were roundly criticized even by people on the right as being beyond the pale.… There are a lot of Americans who know that hurt.

Sen. Booker is a virtuoso in the fine art of talking without actually saying anything. He has mastered the meaningless gibberish that passes for political discourse in Washington. He tells us that Jackson is “qualified and special,” that her nomination to the Supreme Court is an “incredibly special moment” for America, that she’s “shattering a glass ceiling” and that she is doing so despite fictitious GOP attacks “roundly criticized” for being “beyond the pale.” Booker’s rhetorical style, as Orwell put it, “consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.” Judge Jackson’s Senate testimony was just as formulaic.

This is the real problem with Judge Jackson. Her refusal to provide the definition of “woman” to Sen. Blackburn was a predictable attempt to keep her dark money backers at Demand Justice happy. But it really isn’t what bothers conservatives in general and Republican senators in particular. She was equally evasive when asked about her judicial philosophy. She insists that the answer to this question is best derived from her record as a district and appellate judge. But her record of defending terrorists, leniency in sentencing people convicted of child pornography charges, and obvious affinity for Critical Race Theory suggest that her judicial philosophy is far to the left of mainstream jurisprudence. But she won’t say so in public.

If politicians, judges, and other public officials camouflage their true positions and agendas with evasive and euphemistic language because they don’t believe the voters and their congressional representatives will support them, our political discourse becomes so debased that it is impossible to understand — much less trust. Joe Biden lives in the White House because he talked like a moderate during his 2020 campaign. It has long since become obvious that he is owned by the radical left. This is why he nominated a leftist ideologue for a seat on the Supreme Court. This kind of verbal bait-and-switch is a genuine threat to the republic.

David Catron
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David Catron is a recovering health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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